When my oldest was born, we spent close to 2 weeks in the NICU. I had no idea how exhausted I was going to be, nor would I fully appreciate the heaviness of the emotional toll that experience would have on my family.
At the time, my husband and I were blessed with a fantastic circle of supportive friends. People went to our home to clean, cook, and set up baby equipment while we spent our days at the hospital fighting for our daughter’s life.
Then, once we finally made it home, people showered us with delicious homemade meals for close to 2 months. It was unbelievably helpful.
There are no words on this side of heaven that can fully express our gratitude for what was done for us during that difficult time.
We will never forget it.
However, fast forward a few years and it was a totally different ballgame with our second child.
My 3 year old daughter was managing a peanut and sesame allergy. And due to the struggle of finding safe tree nuts that were not manufactured with peanuts, we also tended to avoid those as well. Cross-contact was a very serious concern for our family.
To read more about cross-contact, check out a post we wrote HERE.
Many people wanted to bless us with meals, but we just didn’t feel safe eating them. Honestly, I KNEW our friends and family would try hard to keep us safe, but we were not in control of the food ingredients, the food prep, or the brands used.
There was just no way to safely navigate a meal train with so many different people and moving parts.
So what did we end up doing?
My mom came over to my house a few weeks before I was due and we busted out over 20 casseroles and crockpot dump meals that I stored in our freezer.
I also created a grocery list for the 4 weeks after I gave birth so that it was ready to go. It included items like fresh fruits, veggies, and safe snack brands for my oldest during the day.
Honestly, this worked like a dream for my family.
We All Need Help
But let’s get real for a minute. If we are being honest, we all need help at some point in our lives so we can move through hard seasons.
Life is full of celebratory moments such as the birth of a child, but it also produces unexpected events that can knock us on our butts.
- a death in the family
- an accident
- mental health struggles
- a difficult season of life
These difficulties impact everyone, but when it happens to a food allergy family, it’s even harder to navigate because the added layer of food safety concern on top of it all.
And that is exactly why Lauren and I put our heads together to create this list of ideas to help other food allergy families. We hope it is helpful to you!
Alternative Ideas in Lieu of Meal Trains
1. Offer to Prep Food at Their Home with Their Stuff
If a parent is about to give birth, bed ridden, or injured, then they might appreciate someone coming over to help them meal prep. Depending on the food allergy family’s comfort level, they might want to be involved in helping or even just be in the same room for this process.
Preparing food in their own home with their own safe brands and cookware is often the safest way to go about it.
2. Premade Grocery Lists to Hand Out
Instead of someone setting up a traditional meal train system to help a family, they could instead facilitate a grocery list train.
This takes a bit more participation from the food allergy family, but in essence, they could create grocery lists (for several weeks) with specific brands and product sizes for their safe food needs.
Then one, or several families could sign up to shop, buy, and deliver their groceries.
3. Grocery Delivery Subscription
Differing from the idea above, this idea is specific to just covering the cost of food delivery. Many local grocery stores offer a monthly or yearly home delivery service.
If a food allergy family is not comfortable having another person shop for them, then they can do it themselves online and have it delivered to their home.
Personally, I’d love this option. I have several friends that would 100% jump on board helping out my family this way.
A text/email could be sent to the people in a family’s close circle. Then, people could chip in whatever amount they wanted in helping to cover the cost of the delivery subscription.
4. Restaurant Gift Cards
Every food allergy family is different. Needs and comfort levels will vary. There are some families that are comfortable eating from specific restaurants or locations.
Ask the food allergy family if they have a list of safe places and then organize ways for gift cards to be purchased and gifted to them.
5. Food Prep Party
This idea doesn’t really work if the food allergy family is in crisis. However, if preparing for a new birth or another big change in life, a food prep party might work beautifully.
In this case, all the foods needed would be purchased ahead of time. Supportive friends and family would then be invited to come over and help prepare a designated amount of meals that could be frozen for the family.
I’d have fun with this! Play music, have snacks, and pop open a wine bottle! And of course, don’t forget to ask everyone to wash hands before cooking. 😉
6. Amazon Wish List
Who doesn’t love Amazon lists?! My family buys a ton of allergy safe brands and snacks from Amazon in bulk. It’s sooooo convenient.
Perhaps this would be an easier option for those that want to help a food allergy family during a hard season, but are short on funds or time themselves.
The family could create a list of items needed geared toward their specific need and then people that want to help can see what is workable for them.
For example, I once knew a family that was in a horrible car accident. Mercifully, the family was safe, but multiple family members were hospitalized and then bed ridden for a period of time.
Their local church got together and made of list of items needed for their home care and pushed it out to the community.
This same idea could apply to an allergy family’s food brand needs as well as things needed for their situation. Everything could be listed within the wishlist and then be shipped directly to their home.
7. Cleaning Service
Maybe helping with food is just not something a food allergy family is comfortable having others do for them. And that’s absolutely okay!
If that’s the case, check to see if help with house cleaning would benefit the family during their time of struggle.
Those that want to bless the food allergy family could chip in and share the cost of a cleaning service.
8. Child Care
Without a doubt, there are times that safe childcare would be appreciated by food allergy families.
Depending on the age of the child, can they go to a friend’s house that understands their medical needs and has been trained in that child’s emergency medical plan?
If an infant or toddler, who does the family trust to care for their child? Consider asking the food allergy family if this is an area that need help with and if there is a way to meet that need safely.
Realistically, some families just do not have close friends or family that can assist them in caring for their children. In that case, perhaps looking at licensed and trained caregivers through Care.com might be worth looking into.
Then, willing participants could offer to chip in on the cost of subscription fee.
9. The Gift of Time
Obviously, for whatever reason, these ideas might not work for every food allergy family. Different families, different needs.
Instead, perhaps just offering to volunteer your time in their home is the best way to show you care. Discuss what their most pressing needs are in their family.
And if you are able and willing, consider offering the gift of your time helping them meet those needs in whatever way possible.
Truly, giving from your heart out of love and kindness for that family will mean more to them than you will ever probably know. 💙
We hope this was helpful to you or someone you love!